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Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Archive for the tag “Philosophy”

#dndnext Cautious Optimism 6: In Summary

This post is (for me at least) coming on the heels of my last one. I’ve decided to increase my update schedule for reasons that I hope will become evident. I hope to be up to daily posts soon, so keep your eyes open and if you like what you see, tell your friends.

I’ve been titling these posts Cautious Optimism for a reason – that perfectly expresses my feelings on D&D Next. I choose to call it by the name Wizards of the Coast is using for a number of reasons, even though I feel like a doof every time I say it out loud. Wizards thinks they’re onto something, and I agree with them. What they’re saying about the design – and what little we’re hearing about the design – is promising. A simple core with additions for those who want more depth or complexity? Sounds nice. Sounds familiar, but it sounds nice. It’s a good familiar that we’re hearing about. This is D&D, after all. When it becomes unfamiliar, a lot of us fans balk and go somewhere else.

The fact that Wizards seems hopeful – rather than greedy – with this announcement means a lot to me. They call it D&D Next because they’re hoping major versions won’t be needed anymore. They’re hoping – perhaps unrealistically – that this will be the last real version we’ll ever need. It’s hard to see that and not hope right along with them, even if you’re not sure you can believe it (or them). It’s hopeful, and I like hopeful.

In that regard, I wanted to go over a few of my hopes for Next. Some of these things are abstract, some are concrete, and I want it to be clear from the start that none of these are deal-breakers for me.  I love this hobby, and I’m willing to give a lot of ground and still love the granddaddy game of them all. D&D has, through every edition, had its ups and downs (as I think this series has pointed out rather well). Wizards of the Coast has set themselves up for an ambitious path for Next, and I hope they succeed. I am cautiously optimistic that they will.

But on to my hopes for the new system.

Feature 1: Fast Character Creation

I want to be able to do character generation and start a game in the same night. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I want the core of the game to allow for that sort of thing so that if my game group can’t manage it, then it’s our fault. Our fault for screwing around (which is okay if everyone’s having fun), or our fault for including too many rules modules. From concept to finished character, I want less than an hour for newbies, and half an hour or less once we get to know the system. Ideally, I’d like to always start with core rules, and then add stuff in as we go on a situational basis, which brings me to:

Feature 2: On The Fly Extension

If my game group decides we suddenly want a highly tactical map battle, I want to be able to add that in, and then leave it behind for the next session. I want to be able to do this with most rule modules (or whatever name they’re finally called): I want to be able to plug them in and abandon them at will, mid-session if possible. I do that with extensions in my Chrome Web Browser, and I want to be able to do it in my D&D game. Even if I’m stuck with a module once it goes in, I can live with that – provided adding it in the first place is easy and intuitive. I want new modules to hook onto extant rules systems so that, when I stick them in in the middle of a campaign, they still feel natural. I would prefer, however, that varying levels of complexity be easy to integrate because…

Feature 3: Variable Character Rule Complexity

I have had otherwise great gamers be put off by having to learn a whole bunch of crap just to play their character – they wanted simple, obvious die rolls that were consistent and easy to remember. I have had other players relish diving into the crunch and complexity, fine-tuning each score, and agonize over every spell/power/feat choice, and love every damn minute of it. Personally, I’m somewhere in between these two extremes, and I think most players probably are.

Those two different kind of players don’t usually belong in the same game, though. The game will accomidate one and not the other, and I’m tired of that. I don’t want that anymore, and D&D Next is posturing as if its the game to pull it off. I hope it does. I hope that folks who loved the micromanagement of 3 and 4e will be able to sit down with folks who would be more comfortable with the much more streamlined 0e or one of the games out of the Old School Renaissance (a word neither I nor Chrome, Opera, or Firefox seem to be able to spell without looking it up). If one player can have a nice, simple one-page character sheet, and I can have three pages of stuff, and my real crunch-loving friends can have six – and we can all sit and play the same game at the same time – that will make me happy. Oh, so happy. Being able to add to the complexity of your own character as you go so that it moves with your learning curve and desire for crunch would be even better, and that brings me to…

Feature 4: Extensible Character Classes

I love core classes. I’d love about five of them in the core rules (Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, Cleric, RANGER… or, you know, Paladin or Monk – any one of those three RANGER), and then maybe five to eight more in later rulebooks. What I don’t want is an endless procession of prestige and paragon classes, epic destinies, and so on. I want to be able to flavor-up and put my character on a path using feats. I’d love it even more of that particular method of improvement were optional.

It would be really cool if those feats could be put together into a group, showing a particular path of improvement that reflected a specialization within the larger context of the class. Maybe a few small benefits just for using all that stuff, but mostly flavor and guidance for role playing within the context of that set of tools. Yeah – that’s a good way to put it: a collection of tools for guiding your character towards an archetype that exists within the class. It’s too bad there’s not a name for that sort of thing, maybe an older system tat could be dusted off and updated… Oh, wait! There is!

Feature 5: Kits not Prestige Classes

For all my ranting and raving about 2e and the things I hated about it (actually, as I recall, I couldn’t even be bothered to rant about 2e much specifically – I just rolled it all up into a general AD&D rant…), there is one thing I truly miss from 2e: KITS. Kits were an awesome idea. They provided small, specific bonuses, but didn’t really reward min-maxing. They were also packed to the brim with fluff rather than crunch, and could be taken (in fact were supposed to be taken) at level 1 – making them essentially the opposite of Prestige Classes. Kits are the way to go for “core” (although I prefer them to appear minimally, if at all, in the core rule books). By flavoring the core classes rather than tossing them in the bin, they remained special and unique, and that was better.

If you want to add in Prestige Classes or Paragon Paths or whatever the hell in extra stuff, that’s fantastic. Go for it. I won’t buy those books, but I think they should exist. Me, I want KITS, not PrCs. Eff PrCs. We don’t need class bloat. And that, sadly, brings me to y next point:

Feature 6: Fewer Classes, More Kits

This one makes me sad, because it’s admission time: Ranger shouldn’t be a class. If Kits are brought back, then Rangers are a Kit that should be applied to a Fighter or Druid class (Druid could be a Kit for Cleric, but to me the shamanistic nature-worshiper is too fundamentally different in nature from the organized religious miracle-weaver). Paladin could be a Kit applied to Fighter or Cleric. Barbarian could be applied to Fighter or Rogue – or any other class, for that matter; the idea of a barbarian Cleric or Wizard is very, very cool to me.

Sorcerer can be a Kit for Wizard – as can all manner of specialist mage. In fact, any number of alternate spellcasting methods could be Kits applied to existing spellcasting classes. We don’t need a whole new class for Hexblades and Warlocks – we need Kits and funny ways of managing out spell list. What if Warlock was a Wizard Kit that let you cast your spells known as often as you like – but only gave you one new spell per level, and capped your highest selectable spell level as 1/4 your actual level?  Wait… that sounds more like a Hexblade… Whatever, it doesn’t matter. The point is, if we have Kits – rich, well-written flavorful Kits – we don’t need an asston of character classes.

And if Wizards has trouble coming up with interesting, detailed new Kits, they can sign my ass up. Err… I mean, ask the fan community to come up with them, and put them into their magazine. You know, their online magazine. What? You say they have two? What the hell is the point of that?

Feature 7: One Magazine to Rule Them All – in more than one media

Alright, guys: when it was a print publication, it made sense to have two different magazines. As an online PDF, however, that’s just… dumb. If you’re going to do an online magazine, here’s my suggestion: call it Dungeons & Dragons Magazine. Put the articles out over the course of a month, available to subscribers. Then, at the end of each month, compile them together into a print magazine that people who are willing to pay a premium can get in their hot little hands.

We’re gamers, Wizards of the Coast. We like hard copies. If I spend too much time reading on my computer, my eyes get rather tired. I like the feel of the pages under my fingers. I like being able to flip between them during a game. PDFs don’t do that, although I will admit that, baring a proper print release, I personally would like an e-book version. Of course, it’s pretty easy and cheap to publish in e-book format, so my real question is this: Why in the 666 Layers of the Abyss aren’t you already using e-book format? I mean, it couldn’t be that hard to push the books to that format, could it? The books and the magazines. As I understand it, Amazon already has some sort of regular update mechanism. I’ve been lead to believe that you can subscribe to newspapers on your Nook (or whatever the hell the Amazon e-book reader is called; I can’t keep them straight, and it’s just not important enough to me to do a Google search).

Online is powerful, but it isn’t everything. Offline is important, too – and so is print, no matter how out of date it seems. We’re gamers. We like books. We’re also fans, and creative people, us gamers – and that brings me to my last point, and if anything was a game-breaker for me, it would be this one:

Feature 8: Bring Back the OGL

This is the big one. The one feature to rule them all. See, with the OGL, if we don’t like something or think we can write it better for some small niche of the market, then we can – and we can sell it. The shoreline sorcerers may be looking at this and thinking “but that way lies Pathfinder” – and they’d be wrong. Pathfinder is what it has become because the OGL was abandoned, a new system was created without fan feedback, and the straight-jacket joke that was the GSL was enforced. That’s why Pathfinder is what it is. It’s not because the Wizards allowed us freedom – it’s because they took it away. People don’t like that. Creative people – like gamers – especially don’t like that. It makes us angry – and you wouldn’t liKE US WHEN WE’RE ANG… HULK SMASH STUPID GSL!!!!!

Ahem.

More importantly, though, is that you guys at Wizards haven’t always delivered on your promises. When the OGL was around, that wasn’t a big deal: fans just did it themselves, and you were off the hook. No harm, no foul. The GSL came around, though, and suddenly you’re shutting down fan sites and projects… without offering anything like what they were providing. I’m still waiting for the graphical character model creator and neat-o 3D online tabletop it was supposed to plug into. You don’t get us to buy your product by excluding fans. You get us to buy it by making it awesome.

As a side note – let me buy it. I’ll subscribe for a magazine. I’m not subscribing for a character creator and an online tabletop. I’ll buy those things, though. I’ll even pay for update packages occasionally. But if you want me to buy your character generator, it needs to be better than this one or this one, and your online tabletop had damn well be better than this completely free one. Remember that 3D tabletop you guys promised us? The one that hooked up to a character creator that made cool 3D tokens for the 3D tabletop? Yeah – I’d pay for that. I’d even pay to use your servers as long as I had the option of not using your servers and establishing my own. People do pay for convenience and service, you know. QuickTrip has based their entire existence on that.

So, to Wrap up:

Most gamers hop systems and editions. Sure, we do it at different times and for different reasons. We use White Wolf when we’re feeling angsty or dark or melancholic. We use GURPS when we want a blend of freedom and realism. We use RoleMaster when we’ve fallen in love with tables (I’m assuming. Neat system, but too damn many tables for me, thanks). And we use different editions of D&D for a whole list of reasons, but two of them are ease of use and familiarity. D&D is comfortable for us because it’s where most gamers started. We like new and neat and different, but if you make it too different, we’ll balk.

Some of us – me included – even have a great deal of appreciation for the “new different” 4e. As I said in my last posting, I think it’s a fantastic fantasy miniature combat game.  If you just ran screaming from 4e, go to a used bookstore and pick up a Player’s Handbook and a Monster Manual (and nothing else), and try it out in that context. Just try it as a battle sim. It’s unrealistic as all holy hell, but it’s fun, and that’s what games are supposed to be. I think we roleplayers can forget that bit sometimes. We get caught up in how things should work, or in forging complex stories, or in making deep and fleshed-out characters and forget that when we play D&D, we’re playing a game – and games should be fun. In a specific context, 4e is fun. It’s great in that context, and if you’re into that sort of thing.

TL;DR

Go back and peruse the bold face. Develop an attention span. If you don’t have one, I’m not sure how you play role playing games in the first place. Yes, I’m a jerk.

Coming Up on student 20 Productions

Next time, I’ll be talking about my own development work, the Essence 20 game I’m working on, and I’ll even have a relevant image for you. Interestingly enough, it relates to some of what I’ve been saying about D&D Next. That will be up soon – maybe even tomorrow. I may also drop hints about what I’m building up to. Who the heck knows with me? I’m unpredictable like that.

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The New Reach: Tiers Mean More

My friend B pointed out that the flexibility of the Competence/Reach system as I had originally designed it is a flaw, not a strength. While it will probably appear as I described it as an optional rule, for general play it’s way too number-crunchy at high levels. If your group is into that, fine (hence the inclusion as a rule option), but I agree with B that, with most groups, this can lead to some very annoying game lag.

The problem is that, for the statistics-savvy player, this is a gold-mine for min-maxing. There’s nothing wrong with that… until it holds up game play as the player weighs the advantages of 5d20 vs. 10d10, or some other combination. To avoid this problem, we talked (B and I) for a while, and I came up with a solution that I think not only works, but helps to emphasize the Tiers of skill and simplifies the whole affair.

At Apprentice tier, Reaching means -5 to Competence, but you add in 1d10 (so an Apprentice with a Competence of 6 would roll 1d10+1 when reaching). At Journeyman tier, reaching means -10 to Competence, but adding in 2d10 (so if your Competence was 18, you would roll 2d10+8). At Expert tier, you reach with -15 to Skill, but add 3d10. At Master level, you gain the ability to choose any of the previous Reach modifiers (-5/+1d10, -10/+2d10, – 15/+3d10), or you can use -20/+4d10.

Grandmaster tier will most likely be an extension of the above  – you can choose -5/+1d10, -10/+2d10, -15/+3d10, -20/+4d10, or -25/+5d10.

Another idea I was toying with is to use different dice for different tiers – d6 for Apprentice, d8 for Journeyman, d10 for Expert, and d12 for Master/Grandmaster. With this method, a Apprentice could take a -5 to add a 1d6, a Journeyman could take a -10 to add a 2d8, and an Expert could take a -15 to add a 3d10. A Master could take the options of -5/+1d12, -10/+2d12, -15/+3d12, or -20/+4d12. The Grandmaster Tier would add a possible -25/5d12 to the mix. I’d prefer to have the Grandmaster use a d14, but that’s a pretty

A 14-sided die (by GameScience, also shows day...

Image via Wikipedia

uncommon die type (you can buy them here), and I don’t want people to have to go out and buy special dice just for my game.

Each version of the new system has its ups and downs. Most significantly, the second version makes getting to the next tier much more important. It also makes reaching at Apprentice level (and, to a lesser degree, Journeyman level) a dangerous thing to do.

I suppose I could split the difference. I could make Apprentice use d8, Journeyman and Expert use d10, and Master/Grandmaster use d12. Or, it could be Apprentice d8, Journeyman through Master d10, and Grandmaster d12…

Ouch. Braincramp…

In any case, the first option has the advantage of only needing a single type of die for the game. The different tiers are still important, but the difference between Apprentice and Journeyman is more subtle. Not much more, but a bit. I’m really not sure whether or not I want the tiers to be that significant.

What do you think?

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No review, but plenty of other stuff to talk about…

Well, that fell through disastrously. The promised review isn’t done. I simply haven’t had the time. I apologize, but it has since occurred to me that maybe my brother’s review blog isn’t the right format for an indy RPG review in any case. I mean, it’s a great format; I wish more in-depth reviews used it, but going over some of his stuff I have come to the conclusion that maybe… just maybe… it’s a format that works better for visual media. More specifically, I could see using it for TV and Movies… but less so for books or video games. Maybe I should try to find a format of my own to use…

In development news, I got more work done last night on my Essence system than in the preceding week all together, and it looks like I may pull off much the same thing tonight, which is fantastic. I have the basic task resolution mechanic in place, and have begun constructing character creation rules, along with everything that will appear on a character. Which brings me to a question.

I’m looking at dividing the combat mechanic up, essentially making two different combat systems for the game. The idea runs like this:

  1. Standard Combat: This combat system eschews battle maps and the related tactical side of combat. The idea is to have a simple, quick to run system for folks who don’t want to spend a lot of time on combat, or who like their combat map-free.
  2. Art of War: This is the map combat system for Essence, with a focus on tactical movement. Art of War requires players to make a sort of sub-character, derived from the main character sheet, that has information specific to Art of War combat. The eventual idea would be to make it so you could just make the Art of War sheet, allowing groups to have fun little skirmish battles and run pvp tournies if that’s what they’re into without getting into a full-on game.
So yeah, in a way, the Art of War combat system is a game within a game. It’s all very complicated, tautological, and Hamlet-esque.
At any rate, keeping in mind the two modes of running combat above, I’m wondering if things like defense (i.e. what a character does to avoid getting tagged in combat) should be separate derived abilities, or if they should be based directly on Skills (the Essence system is a Skill based one – did I forget to mention that?). That is to say, should characters have a separate sub-stat  that works sort of like a Challenge rating for how hard they are to hit, or should Characters be expected to buy up skills for use in defense or default to an Agility stat for a defense check?

I’m not really asking anyone in particular this question, you understand. I mean, I welcome any and all opinions on the matter – and would be more than happy to clarify the conundrum if you need me to… but mostly I’m talking about it here so that I can get my brain wrapped around the problem. I guess it comes down to this: how much complexity do I want in the Standard Combat system? The whole purpose of dividing the combat systems into two different methods is so that a game group can choose between a simple, streamlined, relatively quick combat system (if their game is combat light, or they don’t want to deal with the complexity of battle-map based tactical combat) and a more in-depth tactical skirmish system that uses minis and so on (if the game has a lot of combat, or the group enjoys full tactical combat similar to what’s found in the more recent editions of Dungeons & Dragons).

I want groups to have that choice. Of course, groups always have that choice – nothing stops you from ignoring tactical map-based combat rules in any game you play. I want the choice up-front and supported either way by the system. Is that too much to hope for?

As a final note: as of this writing, in about two hours, the sixth series of the new Doctor Who (or the thirty-sixth season of Doctor Who, if you prefer to think of it that way) will air in England. Here in the States, of course, we have to wait another 12 hours or so to see it, but I just wanted to let everyone know how excited I am that it’s finally here (YAY!!). Everyone got their scarfs, sonic screwdrivers, and TARDIS keys ready? Fantastic. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a few thoughts on the episode tonight. If not, look forward to a post about the episode tomorrow.
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Combaty Goodness and Sanity Saving Side Projects

I know it’s been a long time since my last post – way to long to be really forgivable. It seems that this blog is slipping into the same territory as all my blogs of the past, which is upsetting. I need to get back into a schedule. My older brother posts at his blog on an almost daily basis – maybe I should try that. It’s harder to get into a weekly habit than it is a daily one, I guess. In any case, I suppose I should get on with it, rather than bemoaning my lack of posts. Self pity isn’t the most healthy thing in the world to indulge in.

Today, we’re going to cover two things – the basics of combat in Elements, and a side-project I started recently to help deal with the headaches that Elements causes me. I guess that creating a second tabletop RPG system might sound like a psychotic way to relieve stress cause by creating a tabletop RPG system, but this side project – 16 Bit Heroes by name – is lighter, simpler, and it lets me look at Element’s more complicated rules in a different light.

I’m going to try dividing this post into multiple pages. You know, with this part here and Combaty Goodness as one page, and the Sanity Saving Side Project as the next page. I’ve never done this before for any blog I’ve ever written, but I’ve noticed that my posts are absurdly long, and I thought this might help make them look more readable. Let’s see if it works…

Combaty Goodness

All Role Playing Games need some way to resolve physical conflict. It’s crazy not to. I don’t care if the game is about high level court intrigue, or about the goings on at a monastery, there’s a high probability that, at some point, someone is going to hit someone, and battle will ensue. In role playing games, combat of one form or another happens; it is only the frequency with which it occurs that changes from game to game, and let’s be honest – it changes more from one game group to another more than from one game to another. Some game groups like combat, and want a battle or two every session. Other groups prefer combat to be rare or completely non-existent. Most groups fall somewhere in between the extremes, and that’s as it should be.

There are a lot of theories running around out there concerning how various games treat combat in their rules. A lot of people take the view that if a system spends a lot of time with combat, creating a complicated method for beating folks up, that means that the game should appeal more to people who like combat in games, and less to people who don’t. That’s a pretty good point as far as it goes, but I personally don’t think it’s entirely true.

I think that combat systems should be present and well made, with making combat fun and tactical in mind. To me, a combat system is like a pipe wrench: no matter how often you use it, it’s a really useful thing to keep in your toolbox. Games with poor or ill-defined combat systems seem just lazy to me; whether they’re going to get a lot of use or not, they should be done and done well. Rules for tactical movement, taking advantage of opponent inattention, and doing really cool stuff should all be there. A group can use the complexities of combat or not – if there’s a skill system of some kind, you can always simplify combat to just a few skill checks if you don’t like the more tactical stuff, but the more in-depth version should be available. Having a tabletop RPG without a decent combat system is like having a toolbox without a pipe wrench.

With that having been said, I enjoy combat in RPGs, whether a tactical map and minis are used or not. The Elements combat system is designed with both combat map use and not in mind, with plenty of opportunity for tactical strategy and doing "cool stuff" along the way. Like most of the system, combat is customizable; there is a system (untested as yet) for making up new Maneuvers (see below) that is being used to design the Maneuvers for the book.

Combat in Elements is a step-by-step process, just as it is in most games. As combat begins, an initiative order is determined by making an Initiative Effort – by default, you roll a Steadiness effort, although there are Qualities that allow you to substitute other Conditions, and there are ways to add Bonus Dice to your Initiative Effort. Initiative Effort Checks aren’t bound by the 50 result limit of other checks, so Bounce Dice are even more useful than usual here. Highest result goes first, second highest goes second and so on. NPCs have a set Initiative Value (there’s not much dice rolling for GMs in Elements; this is intended to prevent accidental TPK because the GM has a string of good luck rolls) that replaces their Initiative roll. Anyone who has a Initiative Effort more than twenty more than the lowest Initiative gets to participate in a Surprise Round. After that, combat proceeds as follows:

  1. Surprise Actions: If there is a Surprise Round, all participants in that round act in order of Initiative, receiving 3 Action Points (AP – see below) to act with when their turn comes up. During the Surprise round, no one can take Off Turn Actions (OTAs; see below). Once the Surprise Round is over, the rest of the battle proceeds with all combatants participating; see below.
  2. Getting AP: Once the battle begins, each PC receives 5 Action Points (AP) at the start of his or her turn. AP are used to pay for actions the character takes, most often in the form of Maneuvers. Maneuvers typically cost from 0 to 5 AP , and all have a specific defined effect. Most also require an Effort check, either against a static Challenge number or against a Challenge established by the target. Characters can choose to spend some, none, or all of their AP during their turn. Any AP not spent are held in reserve.
  3. Using Maneuvers: During a PC’s turn, they can use any Maneuver they know, following the rules of that Maneuver to create the desired result – this may be inflicting damage, leveling a State on a target, or moving around the battlefield. PCs all receive certain default Maneuvers allowing for quick movement, tactical movement, basic dodging, and punching someone in the face. Other maneuvers are gained during character generation, through experience, or by using Tools (weapons, magic wand, what have you). For instance, daggers have a "Stabbity" maneuver that anyone with a dagger can use, whether they’re trained in its use or not.
  4. Extended Actions: When you’re done spending off your AP, you declare the end of your turn. If you wanted to start doing something, but didn’t have the AP to finish, you can start an Extended Action; this leaves you with no AP until the start of your turn, but makes it so that you only have to spend the difference between the AP spent on your last turn and the cost of the Maneuver to take that action on your next turn (so, if you have a 4 AP Maneuver, and you spend 2 AP on it at the end of your turn, you can perform that Maneuver on your next turn by spending the 2 leftover AP, instead of its total 4 AP cost). All AP for an Extended Action must be spent in a row, so you must spend the rest of your AP on your turn starting it, and then the AP to finish the action at the start of your next turn. If you do anything else in between (such as spending AP on something else at the start of your next turn), any AP spent on the Extended Action are lost, and so is the Extended Action.
  5. Off Turn Actions: If you have at least 1 AP left at the end of your turn, you can take Off Turn Actions (OTA) if they are available. AN OTA has an AP cost, just like any other Maneuver, and if you don’t have enough AP, you can’t take the OTA. Even if a Maneuver has an AP cost of 0, you must have at least 1 AP to use it; it just doesn’t spend that 1 AP. OTAs come in two basic types – Counters and Reactions. Counters are triggered by another character’s actions, and take place before that action is resolved. Reactions can be done after just about anything, or at any time you like, but take place after the last action taken by anyone else is resolved. Either way, OTAs require that the Maneuver you’re using be a Counter or Reaction Maneuver… You can’t use just any Maneuver!
  6. NPC Turns: NPCs use slightly different rules; NPCs have a list of available Maneuvers, and are typically allowed to choose any two on their turn. NPCs can only take Extended Actions if their Maneuver is specifically described as being an Extended Action. NPCs also do not have AP – they have their specific number of Maneuvers per round, and that’s it. If an NPC has an OTA, it is always available to them, but not all NPCs will have this option. NPCs also do not make attack Effort checks – instead, they have an Attack Value for each Maneuver that sets the Challenge for the targeted PC’s Defense Effort. For folks that prefer a little more random in their battles, drop the Attack Value by 5, and roll 1d10, adding the result to determine the Challenge.
  7. Extra Turns: Once all the characters have had their actions, a new round begins at the top of the Initiative Order. Characters who had a Surprise Round action can, at the end of any round, voluntarily lower their Initiative by 20 to gain an Extra Turn. During an Extra Turn, the character gains 2 additional AP to spend, and do not loose any AP they had left over from their earlier turn (see below); an Extra Turn otherwise functions like any other turn.
  8. The New Round: Once all Extra Turns are resolved, the new Round begins, at the top of the Initiative Order (which may have changed if characters have taken Extra Turns). When a character’s next turn comes up, they loose any AP they have not yet spent and gain 5 fresh, new AP to spend. Any Extended Actions left from their last turn are take care of right away. This procedure moves from round to round until one side or the other of the battle wins.

And that’s about that. There are a lot of other things that modify the ebb and flow of Combat – being Open to Attack, States, and so on, but those are best left as the subject of another post. The Elements System, by default, utilizes miniatures on a 1” square combat grid, but I plan on including modified rules for mapless combat and hexgrid combat, for folks that prefer that sort of thing.

For the record, for my next post, I plan to talk about States and the Overcome Efforts used to get rid of them. States are things like paralysis, fear, blood loss, and so on that have an adverse effect on a character. There are also positive States, like being Energized or Regeneration… so it should be an interesting post.

In the mean time, click on the little “more…” at the bottom there to read about 16 Bit Heroes, my side project RPG that I’m designing as a pressure-valve to keep Elements from burning me out or driving me insane. (not that driving me insane is all that long of a trip. It’s more of a short walk than a cross-country excursion, if you know what I mean).

Read more…

Philosophies and Such

I’ve done a lot of thinking about Elements over the week; I haven’t been able to do much actual work (curse you, Real Life!!), but what I did accomplish was productive.

Elements is actually sort of a precursor work.  I have a grander scheme that I want to tinker with, founded on many of the same principles as Elements, but with significantly more depth and complexity.  A lot of the Darlings I killed (as I mentioned in my previous post) were actually transferred to the other system.  I’m not actively working on that system (called, tentatively, The Source) right now, but it creeps into my thoughts occasionally.

At its heart, Elements is a Skill Based universal system.  Basically, I’m trying to provide something simple to work with, fun to play, and easily expandable.  Of course, if the Role Playing Game market has taught us anything, it’s that leaving room to expand your system leaves room for further supplements to sell.  That’s not why I want to do it that way, however. 

I want it to be easily expandable so that groups can come up with their own house rules, and so on, adding on to what I’ve created.  Ideally, I’d love to have a thriving web community where Elements players exchange their rules ideas, and so on.  Expansions for the system would come from compilations of the best of these rules, cleaned up and playtested.  The fact that I could write my own extra stuff is a side benefit.

The thing is, though, that Elements is a starting point for me, not the end game.  I envision working on it for a good long time, and playing it, and enjoying it a lot.  That being said, I also want to do it so that I can work on the bigger project lurking in the background – The Source.

Now, why not just work on The Source, you ask. I am, is my answer.  Working on Elements is working on The Source.  The two games share many similarities (dice mechanics being a glaringly obvious one, universality another, and free-form character creation a third), but they are not the same.  Still, the things I’ve covering writing Elements are preparing me for my work on The Source.  To use a cooking metaphor, before one cooks a soufflé, one should probably try making a quiche, or something else.

I am making Elements sound like it’s just a stepping stone, but there’s no “just” about it.  Elements is an outgrowth of the older work on The Source, but it is its own project, and I love it.  The five-action-turn, diceless GMing, the Breadth-And-Depth skill system that forms the foundation of character generation: these things are all fun and wonderful and mine. It’s not like this is an omelet I’m making to sharpen my skills.

Elements is important to me.

Okay, next post will be more rules-substantial, I promise.  I could’ve written about rules tonight (goodness knows I have enough to write about), but I felt like writing this instead.  Take it for what it is, I guess.

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